As many women of Mediterranean descent, I am not the tallest tree in the grove. As a matter of fact, I have been under the impression that I have been 5 foot 4 and one half inches tall for the better part of 25 years. That height was gospel until a recent visit to the doctor revealed otherwise: 63.5 inches. Lies! I could attribute the discrepancy to only one plausible explanation: blonde girls. I know, I know, your furrowed brow and shaking head has been understood, but I’m sticking to my guns here.
As a kid in the seventies, I was tiny. Short, boney kneecaps, monkey arms (that was an actual moniker), and horrendously long raven-colored hair. Can you imagine? I could have been Tim Burton’s inspiration for the Corpse Bride. I went to school with many “white kids,” as we in the family affectionately called them. Northern or Eastern European descendants, fair haired, fair skinned, and tall. Really tall. I never understood why –– I assumed it was indicative of hair color. Those with light hair grew tall. Those with dark hair, shorties. I was not the most logical child.
In my early twenties, I married into a family of white people. Tall. Tall. Tall. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to start wearing four-inch heels on a regular basis. It actually became a habit. Why wasn’t I satisfied with being the height I was? It wasn’t like I was teeny tiny. It only got worse when I began working as an accompanist at my old high school. I was flabbergasted at how damn tall these kids were! Yes, I said flabbergasted. I’m bringing archaic language back, baby. Tall people require large words. It’s only right.
By now, my brain was monstrously logical, and it only made sense that people were getting taller with the co-mingling of nationalities and races, and that my small stature was due to my pure-bred Italian-ness. It was comforting and made me feel… special. I was still, however, walking around daily in four-inch heels, assuming I was in the neighborhood of five foot eight and some change. It was much like walking amongst giants. Those poor tiny people below us, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sun through the thick grove of we blonde behemoths. Oh wait, one of these things is not like the others. Right, it’s the Italian girl, with the black hair, wearing the stilts. Will somebody get rid of the delusional shrimp?
I’m convinced I had talked myself into believing I was taller than I am. When I was a child, the doctor told my parents it looked like I’d be five foot seven, and my little brother would only hit five foot five or six, if he was lucky. I had five-seven in my head my whole life. Tony turned out to be six foot two, the lucky bastard. And here I am, short-changed by almost 4 inches!
It’s strange growing up 100% any nationality not known for tall people, especially when most folks who surround you are statuesque blonde giants. It took me a good thirty-five years to embrace my petite smallness. It’s clearly part of what makes me who I am, what makes me 100% Italian, and I’m still taller than many of the women in my family. Maybe I shouldn’t be blaming the blondes for my addiction to high heels and dissatisfaction for my shortness: I clearly need to blame whichever family member gave me that damn flaxen-haired doll for Christmas! It’s always the family that screws us up, isn’t it?